A COVID-19 log 2/n

Another week. 🥃

I donated blood on Friday morning after reading of a blood shortage in the inland northwest. I’m happy to have been in a position to donate and I’m very happy to have done so in a county yet to have confirmed a case of COVID-19.

But. It was pretty stunning how cavalier the donation bus was. I made an appointment for 10am under the assumption that only a couple people would be donating at the same time and only a few people would be on the bus at once as a way to maintain physical distance.

I was the first to arrive at the bus and was sent to the front door of the hospital before boarding so that my temperature could be checked as a way of screening for symptomatic donors. My temperature was normal, so I went back and waited just inside the bus door while the blood team finished their prep. After a couple minutes I sat down with one of the people to answer a bunch of questions even though I had filled out a fast track form ahead of time.

I was still the first person to actually get setup on a bed and it wasn’t too long before all 4 were full. Once things were in full swing there were probably 8 or so people crammed onto this lovely bus. The air circulation was good and things seemed sterile, but the lack of masks and lack of any concern for distance was really a disappointment.

As Stephen later mentioned, it would be interesting to see a comparison of how many lives are saved with the blood we donated and how many lives may be endangered due to SARS-CoV-2 spread on donation buses.

I only stayed on the bus for a few minutes after I was done. Not thinking, I grabbed a bag of Doritos—how am I supposed to pass up chips!—and sat for my post-donation snack. Of course, if I was somehow already a carrier, I spent that whole time polluting the bus air. All for a bag of chips and a little conversation. Normality is a vice!

As I walked away from the bus I looked back and saw a decent line of people waiting to donate. They were huddled as close as could be, chatting as if everything in the world was normal.

So. While I’m happy to have donated—it really did feel like I was doing something to help—I can’t see donating again in 8 weeks unless I can be sure that the practices have changed.


“If anyone is living a normal life today, you are not doing what we need for you to do if we are going to save lives in this state”

Governor Jay Inslee

Exactly.


Many local businesses are starting to focus on establishing delivery services and providing take-out instead. While this may not be entirely fair, we’ve decided not to order take-out from restaurants as the chain of how food is handled is just too unknown at this point. That said, this food safety article from Serious Eats is full of interesting information that I want to explore further. Once we get into the routine of the new normal, it may make sense to order out from time to time.

I was happy to place an order with our local brewery for cans of beer, something that can sit for a few days before we start consuming it.


Arrival. 👾

As of today, Whitman county has its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

We’ve been expecting this for weeks and really have just assumed it’s been hanging out undetected while people are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms they attribute to a cold or the flu. The general lack of test availability means we have little visibility into how things are spreading unless someone has severe symptoms.

The part that has me confused is “the patient has recovered and is self-isolating at home.”

It’s excellent that they have recovered, but what does that mean? Were they in the hospital with symptoms, were they self-isolated at home the entire time with light symptoms? I’m still fuzzy on how long it takes for a test to complete and how long someone may have had to go about their daily lives before finally being eligible for one.

Earlier in the week, a Pullman firefighter was quarantined after contact with a patient that was displaying possible symptoms. They were released from quarantine less than 24 hours later (I think) because the test came back negative. Also good news, but I was surprised to see that our county had the ability to test someone with a 24 hour turnaround time.

All very confusing. I’m sure it will stay that way for quite a bit.


Pullman itself halted many services on Monday of this last week.

Most city services are closed to the public or open by appointment only. The library is closed and encouraged folks not to return their books yet. Bonus? There are a couple books that both Michelle and I will have a chance to read now. 📚


If you’re reading this column, I’ll assume today is shaping up to be very different than a normal Tuesday.

You may be working from home. You may be teaching your children how to do long division. You may be wondering about how many hours your manager can carve out for you this week at work. You’re likely hyper-alert to every cough, sniffle or sneeze within a two-block radius.

Craig Staszkow – “Committed to staying agile, keeping readers informed

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News has done a great job of adapting and is turning out really informative local stuff daily. The introduction of a community bulletin that lists all of the various closings and changes to business hours was a welcome addition. And they’ve lowered the paywall on all coronavirus related articles.

I feel good that I finally subscribed to a print paper again!


On Thursday, WSU suggested students don’t return from spring break if they are able. It sounds like more groups are pushing their teams to work from home. Earlier in the week, the university announced extreme social distancing measures that limit the number of non-essential people on campus. Jake published a great post on how to manage a research lab remotely. It will be interesting to see which of these practices various labs adapt and keep when this is all over.


A poorly inserted graph showing a rate of increase in COVID-19 cases in Washington State.

Last week Washington State had 769 confirmed cases. We crossed 1000 on Tuesday and are just shy of 2000 on Sunday. It appears that the number of cases has doubled every 5 days for the last two cycles. If that maintains, we’ll cross 4000 on Friday and 8000 on April 1st. Hopefully the messaging across the state of Washington has done it’s job and the curve will start to flatten sooner than that.


It has been interesting to watch how data has started to come together. The State of Washington went from seemingly unreliable numbers to a page that is now updated once a day with specific county information. They also launched an ArcGIS page with mapped data by county.

Our county went from having nothing to something that at least shows a rough set of case data. My guess is now that we have a case that data will start to get more accurate.

It must be nuts for things like JHU and The COVID Tracking Project to find accurate numbers across the country and the world.

A thing to remember when this is over: Sharing health data in a pandemic in 2020 is something county websites all over the country are figuring out how to do individually. Maybe there’s a better way?


Things are starting to feel a little less normal.

We ran out of fresh apples and bananas this week. Rather than chance frequent trips to the store for fresh produce, it’s time to switch to frozen and canned for a bit.

CDC ads are appearing everywhere. I had already seen them as promoted Twitter moments. While driving back from giving blood the other day, I found myself in awe at this message on hand washing and covering your coughs and all I could think was how eerie of a thing it was to hear on the radio.

Tonight’s Westworld had a similar ad in front of it as well, though was mostly strange because of the upbeat music that accompanied the cartoonish illustrations.

We’re still able to enjoy walks in the neighborhood, but it is really weird to cross the street back and forth when coming across other groups of people.

One of the very much strange things is the almost visceral reaction to hand-shaking or close contact among strangers in movies. We watched Girlfriends (1978) on Friday night and both cringed when the main character shook the hand of somebody she met at a party. Distance yourself!

It will be interesting to see what movies are made after this has passed.

We have been successful at video chats. Our local friend group hung out over drinks on St. Patrick’s Day and a few of us had another session on Wednesday. We’ve been making good use of our recently spun up Slack organization and have relied on Zoom for the face to face. Next we’ll have to figure out some games!

Hang in there. And if anyone does want to have a Zoom beer, give me a shout! 🍻

Edited March 23, 2020 8:53am: I opined too much on the current state of affairs at WSU and have removed a couple unnecessarily critical paragraphs as well as some misinformation as to how the university is managing the pandemic. This weekly log should be reserved for personal experiences, links to sources, and careful criticism after more thorough research.

Reactions on “A COVID-19 log 2/n”

Replies

To correct the record as there seems to be a repeated bias against WSU -- on Monday the 16th extreme social distancing was enacted by the provost which only allows 'essential' personnel on campus. I had to get approval for two people to continue to come to campus from the Associate Dean for research in my college. Only one person is allowed per room. This person is not allowed to ride elevators with anyone or start an experiment that lasts more than a day incase a shelter in place decry is made. Over 3 weeks ago we had to develop and submit immediate total shutdown procedure checklists for all labs and submit those for approval. This info was requested by two parties to ensure nobody was missed. All faculty, staff, and graduate students had to complete a telework pledge near the start of last week pledging their work from home. Sorry I didn't include this info in my recent post as I didn't think I'd have to be defending the university.

Regarding the two people still working -- both requested to continue working on $$Million dollar grants with go/no-go deadlines the end of this month because the feds have given us 0 guidance on those deadlines.

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